Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Category: "Moscato d'Asti"

Pizza! Pizza! (and more dessert)

New York is a pizza town.  From the classic slice to the gourmet pie, nearly every international style of pizza is represented.  Neapolitan?  Grandma square?  Dollar slice drunkenly consumed on the street corner?  We've got 'em all.

Wine enthusiasts often debate what's the best wine to pair with pizza and more often than not, Italian wines reign supreme. With their high acidity, Italian wines are very complementary to the tomato-based dish. It also harks back to one of my general rules of thumb: when in doubt, pair like with like.  A wine from the same country of origin as the cuisine will match well. Yes, you can start to drill down to specific regions and grapes and debate what goes best with all those fancy toppings, but in general, Italian wines are a sure thing.

A recent Saturday night brought us to a new place, Sotto 13.  Perusing the wine list, we opted for a Valpolicella, a red from the Veneto region of Italy.  This wine was produced in the Ripasso method, meaning that a percentage of the grapes were dried out on mats for weeks (a technique called Passito) in order to increase natural sugars and flavors.  These grapes are then fermented with other grapes in order to increase the intensity and flavor profiles of the wines.

So, did it work with pizza?  You bet.

Impero Valpolicella Superior, Ripasso, 2009

This wine was a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara  grapes, very traditional for a Valpolicella. Immediately, this wine revealed plums, raisins and cherries, along with some black tea and earthy notes.  It was juicy and round with notable wood tannins. The acidity of the tomato sauce mellowed out the wine's acid levels and a rich, complex wine, with a slight chocolate essence at the end, emerged.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but after, we went to Minetta Tavern for that infamous soufflé.  Yep, two weeks in a row.  Feel free to stage an intervention at any point.

(this sucker didn't even stand a chance)

With it, we paired a Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti.  The beautifully perfumed notes of orange blossom, honeysuckle, candied apricot and honey matched the gooey chocolatey center of the soufflé perfectly.  Heaven.

Keep tasting, friends....

Shame On You

Here's a story about bad wine. As discussed in my Presidential Inauguration post, wine is not just about what's in the glass but the experience of drinking it; even average wines become special in the right context. Conversely, wines can be ruined if the situation is mired in negativity.  A prime example of this was the Slow Wine event in NYC on January 28th.

Slow Wine is a branch of the Slow Food movement, which, according to, is defined as follows:
Slow Food stands at the crossroads of ecology and gastronomy, ethics and pleasure. It opposes the standardization of taste and culture, and the unrestrained power of the food industry multinationals and industrial agriculture. We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to the pleasure of good food and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our association believes in the concept of neo-gastronomy - recognition of the strong connections between plate, planet, people and culture.
Good, Clean and Fair
Slow Food's approach to agriculture, food production and gastronomy is based on a concept of food quality defined by three interconnected principles:
GOOD a fresh and flavorsome seasonal diet that satisfies the senses and is part of our local culture;
CLEAN food production and consumption that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health;
FAIR accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for small-scale producers.

The movement started in 1986 in Piedmont, Italy, one of my favorite wine regions.  During a vacation there a few years back, I was imbued with these values with every meal I ate and every vineyard I walked through. I gained a deep appreciation for their work and what they are trying to achieve on a now-international level.   For weeks after, I couldn't walk by a McDonald's without throwing it a dirty look and hissing under my breath.

 (Piedmont Landscape - how beautiful is that??)
(Vineyards in Piedmont)

Wine is a natural part of the movement as terroir, an integral element in great wines, encapsulates many of these principles.  Needless to say, I was very excited for this event.

However, the Slow Wine event went downhill very, very quickly.  Upon arrival, about half of the tables were empty; many of the distributors ran out of inventory during the daytime sessions and vacated their stations.  For the remaining tables, their portfolios were severely depleted and only had a couple of offerings to pour. Tickets were oversold for the venue capacity and a game of bumper cars ensued trying to move from table to table.  Finally, those promised hors d'oeuvres?  They were just tired platters of stale crackers, sweating cheese and soggy mini sandwiches, for which the queue rivaled the bread lines of Communist Russia.

I was able to pluck a few "best of show" wines out of the bunch (grape pun alert!), but alas, no pictures due to the high bump-to-spillage risk ratio.

Best Sparkler 
Barone Pizzini Franciacorta DOCG 2009, Lombardy
This chardonnay/pinot nero blend was a beautifully soft and creamy mouthful.  The bright acid kept the wine from going flaccid in the mouth and sang with bits of apricot and straw.  I'm becoming increasingly intrigued by Franciacorta, a sparkling wine from the Lombardy region.  I feel a new project coming on.

Best Red
La Gironda Barbera Superior 2009, Piedmont
Ripe plum, bing cherry and an earthy soil appeared on the nose.  In the mouth, the same flavor profiles followed suit and were given a bit of structure through the noticeable acid and moderate tannins.  Medium bodied and easy to drink, this was one of the best reds I sipped on all night.

Best Sweet Wine
La Gironda Moscato d'Asti, Piedmont
Classic moscato notes of orange blossom, peach and candied apricots wafted up immediately from the glass.  On the tongue, the same light sweetness burst in each frizzante bubble.  Not as complex as my favorite La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti but still a nice option.

However, these few bright spots were tarnished by the disorganization and chaos that swirled around them.  As an event planner, nothing infuriates me more than a badly executed event.  Coupled with my personal vested interest in Piedmont, I was roaring with disappointment.  This event did such a disservice to Slow Food that all I can do is scold them.  Shame on you.

Keep tasting, friends.....